When Lucian Bute left the cozy confines of Montreal’s Bell Centre and traveled to Nottingham to defend his IBF super middleweight title against Carl Froch, it figured to be—at least on paper—a competitive fight.
Bute (30-1, 24 KO) came into his fight against Froch (29-2, 21 KO) as both a respected and maligned champion. Many lauded Bute’s undeniable boxing skills and his credentials as champion who had made nine defenses of his world title, including several via clinical stoppage.
However, as is the case with most prominent fighters, opinions on Bute were divided. Detractors pointed to the fact that all of Bute’s title defenses had come in his adopted hometown of Montreal, nearby Quebec City or his native Romania against less than sterling opposition. And there was also the issue of the “long count” he benefited from during his first fight against Librado Andrade.
Depending on which camp one falls into, Bute’s devastating TKO loss to Froch was either shocking or vindicating.
Bute figured to have an advantage in speed and boxing ability against Froch, but this supposed edge quickly proved irrelevant, as Froch walked Bute down and unloaded with a variety of powerful combinations that hurt Bute with alarming ease. Froch didn’t simply stop Bute; he destroyed him.
The extent and ease of the drubbing was such that the rematch clause—which obligates Froch to travel to Canada for the second installment—seemed like nothing but a perfunctory contractual agreement in the immediate aftermath. Surely Bute wouldn’t willingly agree to face Froch again.
But Bute did—with the exception that both he and Froch would take interim bouts. While Froch will defend the IBF title he wrested from Bute on November 17 against Yusaf Mack, Bute will step into the ring this Saturday against upset-minded Denis Grachev.
Grachev (12-0-1, 8 KO) was last seen scoring a surprise stoppage victory over then-undefeated light heavyweight prospect Ismayl Sillakh. In fact, Bute-Grachev will be contested at light heavyweight, and while he is somewhat limited in terms of pure boxing ability, Grachev is certainly a live underdog.
It is no brave claim to suggest that Bute will beat Grachev, or even that he will win by knockout. Still, the importance of this fight for Bute cannot be overstated. With that, let’s find out how and why Bute will rise to the occasion and take his first step towards redemption.